JOHNSON, William M. (Johnston, Johnstone)

From Islapedia

JOHNSON, William M. ( - ) United States Coast Survey employee hired in 1850 as an aid. W. E. Greenwell was his employee from 1850-1853. In 1853 Johnson and Greenwell came to California to work on the west coast. Johnson was in charge of Channel Islands topographic surveys compiled in 1855, 1859, and 1860. In the Report of the Superintendent of the US Coast Survey for the Year 1855, regarding his work on Santa Cruz and Anacapa islands Johnson reported: “The islands make a double sheet, as we succeeded in connecting them by triangulation, three points of Anacapa having been established from the triangulation on Santa Cruz as a base.” During his 1855 survey of Anacapa Island, Johnson reported the presence of a sealing operation and “try-works” on the north side of Middle Anacapa Island which had just finished processing 85 barrels of seal oil. Johnson left the survey in the 1860s under a cloud. One of the last references to him in Survey records concerns his selling off Coast Survey equipment to pay off debts. Goodyear reported Johnson was sub-assistant of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1875. Place names of the Channel Islands carry the name Johnson: Johnson’s Lee on Santa Rosa Island, and both Johnson Canyon and Johnson’s Lee on Santa Cruz Island.


» Johnson, W. M. Features of Santa Cruz Island, the valley of San Buenaventura, and the coast north of Santa Barbara Channel in Report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey, showing the progress of the Survey during the year 1855. Washington, 1856. pp. 186-188

» Goodyear, W. A. Santa Cruz Island in California Division of Mines 9th Annual Report for the year 1889:IX (155) 1890


In the News~

June 7, 1855 [W. M. Johnson to A. D. Bache]: “On the 7th of June we began work on the east end of Santa Cruz Island, to fulfill your instructions of the 10th and 12th of March, by measuring a base, to determine three or more points on the island of Anacapa, 4-1/2 miles distant… The survey of these islands was attended with no little personal risk. at Santa Cruz, where we were obliged to land on the sand and shingle beaches at the mouth of the ‘Gulches,’ the surf was oftentimes so heavy that even with the best management the boat would be swamped. On one of these occasions the cross-hairs in my alhidade were broken by water the water getting into the tube before we could get ashore with it, although my men were always ready, instruments in hand, to jump and run as soon as the boat grounded; with the single exception, we escaped without any more serious consequences than a thorough drenching with salt water...”


September 27, 1860 [DAC]: “U.S. Coast Survey — We understand that Captain W. M. Johnson, who has been for some time employed on the topographical survey of Santa Cruz Island, in the Santa Barbara Channel, has been ordered to Half Moon Bay, near San Francisco, to complete a gap which had been left in the survey at that point. For this purpose he set out in his schooner to sail up the coast, but encountering a heavy gale, he was driven out to sea a long distance — over 200 miles. On Sunday last, he made the harbor of San Pedro, where the stores and instruments were landed, not much improved by contact with the sea, which at times broke over the little craft. The schooner has been brought up the creek to new San Pedro, where she will lie for the winter, the Captain going up by the steamer Senator. Captain Greenwell, of this department, has gone to Washington, expecting to return about March next; Mr. Bache, formerly operating with Captain Johnson, has also gone East, and expects to be located on the department there.”


March 12, 1881 [SBDP]: “Captain W. H. Johnson is seriously ill.”